REPUBLIC of Ireland midfielder James McCarthy was due to undergo another scan on his injured hamstring last night.
The Everton man, who celebrated his 24th birthday with a gentle stroll around the training pitch under the close attention of doctor Alan Byrne at a rain-soaked Gannon Park, is being given every chance to prove his fitness for tomorrow’s clash.
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Asked about the Glasgow-born midfielder’s fitness, manager Martin O’Neill said: “James is obviously feeling better each day. He didn’t do any work today – he’s going for another scan, which is kind of an update – but he is feeling better, so we will see what tomorrow might bring. Remember, it’s only a few days since the injury.”
McCarthy complained of tightness in the hamstring which kept him out of last month’s internationals against Oman and Germany during the Toffees’ 1-1 Barclays Premier League draw at Sunderland on Sunday, but reported to be assessed by the Republic’s medical team. However, O’Neill insisted his only consideration is whether or not a man who has emerged as one of his key players in the last 12 months is fit.
He said: “If he is fit to play and wants to play, that’s fine. If he’s not, then fine. He is improving.”
Stoke midfielder Glenn Whelan was able to train once again yesterday as he continued his recovery from the leg fracture he suffered in Germany.
O’Neill, meanwhile, has warned his skipper Robbie Keane his familiarity with Celtic Park will count for little when the 34-year-old striker returns to the Glasgow venue where he spent four months on loan from former club Tottenham in 2010.
Keane found the back of the net 16 times in 19 appearances for Celtic, but O’Neill, who spent five years in charge at Parkhead, insists that won’t be in his mind as he tries to plot an away win.
He said: “I think there are some players who will say they have got favourite grounds to visit, and Robbie’s played up at Celtic. But that’s not entering my head. That’s not my thought, because somebody might have actually frequented there a wee bit more often than other people.”
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